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When Names Are the Same, but Different
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Written by Amy Franz

As a name grows increasingly more popular, new parents create spelling variations to provide a sense of individuality.

While you may assume an unusual spelling of a common name is a unique take on a typical American name, it may also be a name from a different culture!

The name AIDEN entered the Social Security Administration’s Top 10 list in 2010 and has maintained its popularity ever since. Due to its widespread usage, this name has many spelling alternatives, including AYDIN. While AIDEN and AYDIN can be different versions of the same name, they also have different derivations! AIDEN has Irish origins, meaning ‘fiery one’ while AYDIN is Turkish, meaning ‘enlightened.’

LEAH, stemming from Hebrew, is another common American name that has a variety of spellings. One option is LIAH, which happens to have origins in Chinese, too! This Chinese name is a combination of the name LI paired with the diminutive marker, AH.

KALI is a spelling option for the popular name KAYLEE. However, KALI is also a name used throughout India, often used for males, in honor of the Hindu goddess, Kali.

The name MIA, often a nickname for both MARIA and AMELIA, has been a Top 10 girls’ name on SSA’s list since 2009, making it a good candidate for innovative spellings. The spelling MIYA, for instance, actually has Japanese roots! In Japanese, MIYA means ‘palace, shrine’.

Many names – such as these four – demonstrate the prevalence of onomastic cultural overlap.
Uncovering common American names that are varied in their spelling highlights the cultural diversity within a name. When it comes to multicultural data, it’s vital to consider every derivation of a name so you can best interact with your audience!


Photo from Onomasticon Turcicum by László Rásonyi and Imre Baski

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